Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Sherry Whitten

Matthew stared anxiously at the small cathode ray tube television screen.

“I sort of feel like some one should say something, you know.” He blurted out.

“Like what?” Asked Richard, the engineer he was working with.

“I don’t know, something profound. Monumental.” Matthew walked over to the breaker switch that would turn on the broadcast transmitter and ran his fingers across it. “We’re about to turn on the first television broadcast in the history of the city. It’s not something you get to do twice. Once we do this, that’s, you know…it.”

“It’s just the damn test pattern, Matt.” Laughed Richard. “No one’s even going to know its there. Nobody in town owns a TV.”

Matthew nodded. “Guess you’re right. People of Memphis, meet WMC-TV.”

He flipped the switch, there was an electric hiss in the room, and the screen on the other side of the room glowed to life with the silver indian head test pattern.

Suddenly, there was a small pop, then several much louder ones as every fuse in the building blew out.

“Hey, look at it this way,” Richard called out in the dark, “guess you will get to do the first broadcast twice.”

Memphis Note
On December 11th, 1948, WMC-TV became the first television station to broadcast from Memphis. Until 1953 when a competing station opened, WMC was able to broadcast shows from all four of the national networks. And, no, I don’t think they blew out all of their fuses when they first flipped the switch. Too bad.


I later found out that there were only five Japanese in Memphis when America entered the war.

As a girl, I thought my family were the only ones, unique in our little world.

At our family bakery, my parents employed a black woman named Martha.

I often wondered if I was experiencing a silver of how she lived in the days after Pearl Harbor, as everyone’s eyes turned to watch me and whispers were always at my back.

I never got the chance to ask about the conundrum, though. She quit the morning the two uniformed policemen were posted to guard our store.

A few weeks later those men were replaced by Federal agents, then one day those agents arrived with guns and a car and told us to pack our things and go with them.

My father didn’t speak English, so my mother was the one that asked them about the bakery. Who would look after it, how would we pay our bills?

They didn’t say anything as they put us in the car.

It was nearly three years before we saw our bakery again.

But, by then, the bakery wasn’t ours any more.

My mother never baked again.

Memphis Note
When Pearl Harbor happened, there were only five people of Japanese descent in Memphis. A family of three, and two men. The family ran a bakery on Madison that was closed when they were all forced to move into internment camps. I don’t know if it ever reopened.


The skinny man sat on a worn pillow in the middle of his single bedroom shotgun, smoking a cigarette and eating sunflower seeds. The ashtray before him was filled with spit, seed hulls and butts.

His front door opened, but turn around to see who it was.

“Hello, Lee,” he called out to the older man that stepped into his house.

“Don’t lock your doors?” The other man asked.

The skinny man shrugged. “Haven’t you heard? City’s crime rate is at a historic low.”

The older man laughed, “And we’ve got you to thank for everyone else hearing that.”

“Don’t remind me.” The skinny man groaned.

“Why the griping? You’re the city’s secret weapon! You masterminded the advertising campaign that raised our visibility to unprecedented levels.”

The older man looked over at the boxes piled in the corner.

“And to think you were leaving when I offered you the job.”

Most were still folded shut, gathering dust, but a few had been opened and pilfered through.

“If I ever find a way to break this spell this city’s cast over me, I will be again!”

“Well, I hope that never happens. You’d just miss us terribly.”

“I hate you, Lee.”

Memphis Note
One of Crump’s greatest successes was the relative prosperity and peace the city entered into because of his efforts. Seeing itself in the middle of a Renaissance, the city commissioned a nation wide advertising campaign to extoll our virtues – one that actually succeeded in drawing people to the city.

Matt Farr

Bombardier Vince Evans sighed and tried rubbing his sleeve against the plexiglass dome before him. He knew it wasn’t going to do any good, but he couldn’t help himself.

The nosecone of the Memphis Belle was covered in the splattered and streaked remains of a horde of black flies. Spring had come in England, and the flies had come with it.

“Sir, just to let you know, I can’t see a damn thing up here.”

“Can’t help it. The Brits bit that base on a swamp. Something about the morning fog providing a natural cover. Plus, you know, bugs.” The pilot said. There was a brief pause, and Evans hung his head. “Besides,” came the voice again, “aren’t you supposed to be looking down the bomb sights?”

Out of the corner of his eye, something caught Evan’s attention. He turned his head, and noticed a black speck moving along the dome. It was like one of the splattered flies had come back to life.

Four more dead flies started moving. Then a dozen. Then twice that again.

They weren’t flies at all, he realized, maybe too late.

“Contacts! Contacts!” Vince Evans shouted into his radio, as his blood went cold.

Memphis Note
The Memphis Belle was the first B-17 bomber to fly 25 combat missions with her crew intact. She was named for the pilot’s girlfriend, a Memphis resident. The Belle was purchased by the city of Memphis after an extensive bond tour. Unfortunately, the city had issues with maintaining and protecting the aircraft. After changing locations and hands a few times, the Air Force took back possession of the bomber, and installed it in their museum in Dayton, Ohio.

April Steele

“The kid ain’t ready.”

There were four of us in the expansive suite at the Hotel Chisca.

“I’ve seem him spit. He can sell.”

The two standing men, arguing about whether or not I could hack it as a mule auctioneer.

“You know, I could just talk to him myself.”

Me, the twenty-something kid, sitting on a stiff chair, eager to take his piece before the mule market dried up.

“Think you’re ready, boy? To step into the walls of my castle? To work under my name?”

Lastly, the Colonel. Mister M.R Meals, the obese god of mule sellers. He sat on a loveseat, taking up the entire thing by himself. A cane with a mule’s head and inlaid gold filigree was propped off to the side. His white seersucker suit was impeccably pressed.

“Back in ’39, there was a day I sold two mules a minute for the whole damn day.” The Colonel pointed at me with a sausage finger. “You think you could keep up with somethin’ like that?”

“I suspect. Least if I don’t, I know I can out run you.”


Then a guffaw of laughter from the Colonel.

I was hired on the spot.

Memphis Note
An extension of Memphis being the cotton capital of the world was that it was also the mule capital of the world. Why? Because mules were the main tool of the farm to plow the fields. Amongst the auctioneers that made the mule trading business run, Colonel M.R. Meals was the best. Over the course of his extensive career he sold nearly a hundred and seventy million dollars worth of mules, much of that here in Memphis. Sadly, the mule market shrunk dramatically with the rise of industrial farm tools after World War II.